Live Reviews

Sick Of It All

Municipal Waste, The Unseen, Mistress
London Electric Ballroom

It’s Pancake Day today, but tonight the punters in the Electric Ballroom will be – ahem – ‘flipping’ out for an entirely different reason. Hardcore bills as good as this don’t come around very often; four outwardly diverse bands who ultimately share the same musical background and attitude, with one of the genre’s true masters in the headline spot. Unfortunately your correspondent misses Mistress because of London Underground’s incompetence, but apparently the grindcore quintet went down well.

The Unseen are out to take no prisoners with their fast, anthemic blasts of hardcore punk, as they tear across the stage in a blur of tattoos, spiked belts and ripped clothing. Songs like ‘Weapons Of Mass Deception’ and ‘You Can Never Go Home’ may be cut from well-worn musical cloth, but it matters little when they’re shot through with so much vitality and conviction. Livewire vocalist Mark frequently jumps down onto the barrier to share his mic with the devoted few at the front, and by the end of their all-too-brief set, they’ve deservedly won several new fans.

“We weren’t counting on having this barrier separating us from you!” growls Municipal Waste vocalist Tony Foresta as his band take the stage. These four young guys look and sound like something from ‘Wayne’s World’, and they’re clearly up for a party, barrier or not. They’ve brought beer bongs! Boogie boards! Blasphemy! (okay, a song called ‘The Thrashin’ Of The Christ’). Musically, they’re heavily indebted to the 80’s US thrash scene (particularly early Suicidal Tendencies), but it’d take a churlish punter not to smile at the likes of ‘Unleash The Bastards’ and ‘Drunk As Shit’, which keep the circle pit spinning and the crowd-surfers on the boogie-boards. It’s early days for the ‘Waste, but they certainly know how to entertain.

Sick Of It All have been in the hardcore game for 20 years, and tonight the New York veterans prove they still have plenty of life in them yet. Granted, their set list hasn’t changed much in recent times, but there are few people here who’d argue with classics like ‘Call To Arms’, ‘Built To Last’ and – of course – ‘Scratch The Surface’, all sounding as incendiary as ever, and which incite utter mayhem in the crowd. This is hardcore as it was originally intended – fast and furious, yet also passionate and intelligent – and when there are so many ’emo-core’ bands polluting the hardcore gene pool, it’s clear that bands like SOIA are needed more than ever. A triumph, all round.

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Alex Gosman